236 out of 410 days: Alliteration and Translation



Tatius, legendary king of the Sabines and co-regent at Rome for 5 years with Romulus, is used by two moneyers in the Republic as an obverse type.  Tatius appear in some of the earliest Latin literature in a famously alliterative line of Ennius:

O Tite, tute, Tati, tibi tanta, tyranne, tulisti

What a mouthful!

The translations too often depend on what people think the context is:

By yourself, Titus Tatius the tyrant, you took those terrible troubles.

Warmington in the Loeb clearly assumes a negative context (above).  This reading has been endorsed again by a recent introductory essay on Ennius.  [Not bad little introduction to his alliterative tendencies there too.]  By contrast Elliott very recently has swung out to an opposite positive direction:

You yourself, Titus Tatius, earned yourself so great a reward.

I rather like this more neutral rendering (It is widely quoted thus (an example), I’ve not bothered tracking down who the original translator is):

O Titus Tatius, Tyrant, what great things you have brought upon yourself!

Reading Ennius as having a negative portrayal of Tatius makes it more difficult to explain his presence on coins.  The desire to commemorate him on the state coinage pre-supposes a positive legacy.  

The coin, I suppose, evokes something closer to the sentiments of this line of Propertius:

qui quaerit Tatium veterem durosque Sabinos,

hic posuit nostra nuper in urbe pedem.


He’s only lately set foot in this city who asks for the ancient Tatius or the strict Sabine. 

Propertius says chaste and modest girls might existed in the past but that’s not how this are now or appear to be in the various mythological allusions.

It seems that Tatius has a reputation (along with his fellow sabines) as a guarantor of moral rectitude, perhaps an allusion to his (their) punishment of Tarpeia?

Reverse of RRC 344/2b. 1987.26.59


For smart things about Sabines on Coins, see Farney.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s